Friday, November 30, 2012

RCA (Rabbinical Council of America) no longer endorses reparative (X-GAY) therapy

November 29, 2012
Rabbinical Council of America's Statement Regarding JONAH (Jews Offering New
Alternatives to Homosexuality)

In the years since the Rabbinical Council of America's first comment about JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality), "the only Jewish based organization dedicated to assisting individuals with unwanted same sex attractions move from gay to straight" in January, 2004, in which we suggested that rabbis might refer congregants to them for reparative therapy, many concerns about JONAH and reparative therapy have been raised.

As rabbis trained in Jewish law and values, we base our religious positions regarding medical matters on the best research and advice of experts and scholars in those areas, along with concern for the religious, emotional, and physical welfare of those impacted by our decisions.  Our responsibility is to apply halakhic (Jewish legal) values to those opinions. 

Based on consultation with a wide range of mental health experts and therapists who informed us of the lack of scientifically rigorous studies that support the effectiveness of therapies to change sexual orientation, a review of literature written by experts and major medical and mental health organizations, and based upon reports of the negative and, at times, deleterious consequences to clients of some of the interventions endorsed by JONAH, the Rabbinical Council of America decided in 2011, as part of an overall statement on the Jewish attitude towards homosexuality, to withdraw its original letter referencing JONAH.  Despite numerous attempts by the RCA to have mention of that original letter removed from the JONAH website, our calls, letters, and emails remain unanswered.  As Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, president of the RCA, stated in 2011, "We want it taken down. JONAH said it was a letter of support, but if you read the letter it is not. They took an informational statement and reprinted it, and the use of that as an endorsement is an error."

We believe that properly trained mental health professionals who abide by the values and ethics of their professions can and do make a difference in the lives of their patients and clients. The RCA believes that responsible therapists, in partnership with amenable clients, should be able to work on
whatever issues those clients voluntarily bring to their session. Allegations made against JONAH lead us to question whether JONAH meets those standards.

Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, Chancellor of Yeshiva University and author of the 1974 Encyclopedia Judaica Year Book article, "Judaism and the Modern Attitude to Homosexuality," the first contemporary article to address the issue from the perspective of Jewish law and philosophy, had originally commended the work of JONAH.  In response to the negative reports about JONAH's activities and concerns expressed to him by respected mental health professionals, Dr. Lamm withdrew his endorsement of JONAH.

About the RCA:
The Rabbinical Council of America, with national headquarters in New York City, is a professional organization serving more than 1000 Orthodox Rabbis in the United States of America, Canada, Israel, and around the world. Membership is comprised of duly ordained Orthodox Rabbis who serve in positions of the congregational rabbinate, Jewish education, chaplaincies, and other allied fields of Jewish communal work.
For further information about this statement, you may contact:

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin

Rabbi Mark Dratch
Executive Vice President
The Rabbinical Council of America
305 Seventh Ave
New York, NY 10001

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

"Gay Men, Moms Sue NJ Jewish Gay Conversion Therapists" ABC News and CNN video

Four gay men and two of their mothers filed a lawsuit today against a New Jersey conversion therapy group that claims to rid men of same-sex attractions and turn them straight. 

The lawsuit, filed in Superior Court of New Jersey Hudson County, alleges that methods used by the Jersey City-based Jews Offering New Alternatives to Healing (JONAH) do not work and constitute fraud under the state's consumer protection laws. 

Chaim Levin- Victim of this Therapy

Arthur Goldberg, JONAH's co-director, and Alan Downing, a "life coach" who provides therapy sessions, were also named in the suit. 

The plaintiffs include Michael Ferguson, Benjamin Unger, Sheldon Bruck and Chaim Levin, all of whom used the services of JONAH when they were in their teens or young 20s. 

Two of the men's mothers, Jo Bruck and Bella Levin, who paid for therapy sessions that could cost up to $10,000 a year, were also plaintiffs. 

One of the plaintiffs alleges that therapy sessions that involved a virtual "strip tease" in front of an older male counselor, as well as reliving abuse and homophobia were "humiliating." 

They are seeking declaratory, injunctive and an undisclosed amount of monetary relief, as well as court costs, according to the lawsuit. 

The plaintiffs have received legal help from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which claims in the lawsuit that conversion therapy is a dangerous practice that has been "discredited or highly criticized" by every major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional organization. 

Three of the young plaintiffs are from an ultra orthodox Jewish background; Ferguson came from a Mormon background and met Downing at a "Journey Into Manhood" retreat, according to the lawsuit. 

JONAH appears to cater to orthodox Jews, but its methods "do not have a strong religious aspect," according to SPLC lawyer Sam Wolfe. 

The lawsuit alleges that some of the methods used included: telling boys to beat a pillow, the "effigy of the client's mother," with a tennis racket; encouraging "cuddling" between younger clients and older male counselors; and even instructing attendees to remove their clothing and hold their penis in front of Downing. 

Attendees were also subjected to ridicule as "faggots" and "homos" in mock locker room and gym class role playing, according to the lawsuit. 

"It's definitely cruel and unusual and doesn't work," said Wolfe. "They are peddling bogus techniques that have no foundation in science and are basically ridiculous and even harmful." 

Monday, November 26, 2012

"Is Birthright More Than Freebie Trip? Boosts Loyalty to Israel, But Creates Little Engagement"

The Jewish Daily Forward- 11/21/12 by  By Jillian L. Powers
Taglit-Birthright Israel is transforming contemporary Jewish American culture. In its first 10 years alone, more than 200,000 young Jewish adults traveled to Israel for a free, 10-day experience.
Many believe that Birthright is now becoming the new rite of passage for Jewish youth. Yet Birthright influences feelings about Israel and Judaism more than it inspires action and engagement in the American Jewish community.
The findings from the recently released third report in the Jewish Futures Project are consistent with previous studies — Birthright participants feel more connected to Israel and indicate an interest in remaining within the Jewish community. But the same report notes that while Birthright has influenced rates of Jewish in-marriage (and conversion), only slight behavioral changes result from the experience. 
Compared to young Jewish adults who don’t take the trip, Birthright alumni are only slightly more likely to join a congregation, celebrate holidays and prepare meals on the Sabbath, and are no more likely to volunteer in the community. If this expensive program is a key to developing American Judaism for a new era, it will need to foster the skills and commitments needed for its participants to build Jewish communities at home.

"Growing Up Gay In An Orthodox World: My Final Game Of Tag"- student at Queens College

Tribe Magazine Publication of Queens College Hillel in NY 11/22/12
When I was in the sixth grade, I would count the minutes every morning until recess. I was pretty athletic, though I wasn’t into most organized sports. But I loved playing tag. It was simple: all you had to do was be faster than the slowest runner. If you could outrun the weakest player you wouldn’t lose, and if you didn’t lose you won. But I never really felt like a winner.
I remember there was this one boy who always wanted to play. Shlomo (this wasn’t his real name) was thin and lanky, and not exactly popular. He was obsessed with Britney Spears, and liked to sing and dance to pop songs. Most of the other kids in my class didn’t like to play with him, but when they did they would make sure to keep him tagged “it” for almost the entire game. 
They battered him with insults, shouting at him and calling him “homo” and “faggot,” and sometimes they even got violent. It was hard to tell who was really chasing whom. At the time, I didn’t understand what it was about Shlomo that made others so angry. I felt terrible about the way most of my classmates were treating him, inside and outside the classroom. And yet I did nothing.
Almost a decade later, I found myself in a position similar to his, only the playground was bigger. At the end of my freshman year of college, I came out to my parents. It was the hardest thing I ever did in my life. At the time, there was nothing more humiliating to me than admitting I was gay. So when my father asked me, I panicked. I could not bring myself to utter those three letters, but I thought that if I lied again I would only be dragging out the inevitable. 
Then I realized that a few seconds had already gone by. I was silently answering the question I had been debating with myself every day since the fourth grade. There was no going back. I thought my life was over.

"Israel, Friendships, and the Conflicts that Ensue" By Jeremy Ginsberg

by: Jeremy Ginsberg 11/21/12 The Times Of Zion publication
Recently due to the escalation in the middle east I have found myself in a giant conundrum that I have never had to deal with, fighting with one of my best friends. If you ask both of us what is going on, we wouldn’t consider it “fighting” but if you are an outsider looking into our posts to each other, it shows the hallmark signs of a giant disagreement.
Let me give you some background, this is one of my best friends whom I have known since the sophomore year of high school (’09), I consider him to be one of the smartest people I know, he has always been political, we have always talked politics, and he currently goes to a small liberal arts school in LA.
Now my friend is not anti-Israel, we just disagree on how the state of Israel conducts itself when it pertains to the current situation or the treatment of Palestinians, and recently I have found that out. Every time I post on Facebook an article that say the IDF posts we will have a giant conversation, going back and forth spouting facts that counter each others arguments. This go-between has actually disturbed a couple of people that read my posts. They ask me questions such as, “are you guys still friends?”,  and of course we are but we just disagree on one simple thing.

The ‘Kids’ Behind IDF’s Media-Young Israeli soldiers have pushed older commanders into adopting a more aggressive social media strategy

After the first night of Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, now almost a week ago, a photograph began circulating around Twitter of a grinning 11-month-old who had been killed by an Israeli missile that landed on his house. Within hours, Avital Leibovich, an Israel Defense Forces spokeswoman, posted a reply of sorts: a photograph of another infant, this one an Israeli girl, wounded by a Hamas rocket in the southern town of Kiryat Malachi. 
It wasn’t the first skirmish of the virtual war being waged across social media networks by both the Israeli government and Hamas—the real-world hostilities were announced Nov. 14 by the IDF in a tweet trumpeting the death of Hamas leader Ahmed Jabari—but it was an early indication of how the awful life-and-death stakes of war have been reduced to Internet fodder.
The world is by now well aware of the power of social media to help foment and spread popular movements everywhere from Lower Manhattan to the streets of Cairo. But Operation Pillar of Defense may be the first war to feature direct trash-talking between enemies. “We recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead,” came a tweet from the official @IDFspokesperson account last Wednesday. “@IDFspokesperson Our blessed hands will reach your leaders wherever they are (You Opened Hell Gates on Yourselves),” came the reply from @AlQassamBrigade.
It’s not clear who’s running the Qassam Brigade’s twitter feed, but in Israel, the IDF’s social media operation is run by a 26-year-old immigrant from Belgium named Sacha Dratwa. In the past two years, Dratwa has taken a small operation initially created during Operation Cast Lead to streamline the IDF’s YouTube and Facebook presence and turned it into the most globally visible arm of the Israeli military. 

5,600 join Hod religious gays' organization in Israel- Ynet

Testimonies collected from nearly 300 Orthodox homosexuals who underwent 'conversion therapy' reveal that half began leading secular lifestyle, while two-third of those who were married got divorced Ynet- 11/14/12

Some 5,600 religious homosexuals have joined the Hod organization (an acronym for religious gays in Hebrew) since its establishment in 2008, according to figures presented by the organization in a special seminar held in collaboration with the Israel Psychological Association.

The figures compiled by Hod reveals that about half of religious homosexuals who underwent conversion treatments began leading a secular lifestyle, and about two-third of those who were married got divorced or are in the process of a divorce.

Hod founder Rabbi Ron Yosef presented data showing that the organization received 6,325 appeals since its establishment, 5,585 of them from haredi and religious homosexuals and 740 from parents, educators, counselors and professionals.

About 70% of the appeals came from the national-religious sector, and about 30% from the haredi and Hasidic sectors.

Faith crisis and self-hatred

The HOD organization initiated the seminar following a position paper on "conversion therapy" published earlier this year by the expert committee of the Israel Psychological Association.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"The thoughts and experiences of a proud Gay Jew" by Andrew Farkash

In the Torah, or Old Testament, the word abomination is used sixty-seven times. An explicit line in Leviticus 20:13 states, “If a man lies with a man as he lie with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.”  Abomination is a powerful word, which implies that homosexuality is sinful and unnatural. 

But another passage in Deuteronomy 22:5 reads, “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.” 

The use of the word in this context minimizes its impact and saturates its meaning. Juxtaposing the Leviticus and Deuteronomy passage reveals that the bible would equate homosexuality with a woman wearing pants (considered a male garment), something most female Jews are allowed to do today. Still, prominent religious figures cite Leviticus 20:13 almost every time they are forced to defend their anti-queer positions. 

These homophobic messages imbedded in religious discourse, both clear and hidden, trigger an internal struggle in LGBTQ Jews. Internalized homophobia manifests in Jews who are exposed to environments and philosophies contradicting their sexual feelings, pressuring them to choose between their sexuality and religious identity. Modifying the interpretations of religious text publicized by Orthodox scholars and creating inclusive environments for LGBTQ Jews in religious community settings can alleviate the internalized homophobia perpetuated in these individuals, allowing for reconciliation between queer and Jewish identities.

"An Unorthodox Guide To Sexuality Hebrew Union College Show Explores Boundaries of Otherness" by Debra Nussbaum Cohen

Out There: Susan Kaplow and Trix Rosen’s “Abomination:
Wrestling With Leviticus 18:22”
The Jewish Forward Magazine- 
By Debra Nussbaum Cohen
11/19/12- Creating an art exhibit that captures the complexity of changes in how gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex people are viewed is no small challenge. Especially when it is displayed at a rabbinical seminary, where there is a stricter definition of what is considered appropriate than there would be at, say, a Cheslea gallery. 

But the work exhibited in the new show “The Sexuality Spectrum,” at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the Reform movement seminary that lies on the seam between Manhattan’s East and West Village, manages to do just that.

The idea for “The Sexuality Spectrum” was born of Kruger’s anger at conservative reaction to New York State’s passage into law in June 2011 of the Marriage Equality Act, she said. Kruger is older than 70 (but demurred to say how many years past) and long married. “The innate fear and loathing that has been inherent in the subject of other-than-heterosexual behavior has been a puzzle to me all my life,” she said.The show contains art and artifacts — from paintings to installations, photographs, fiber art and ephemera — that reflect the way sexuality has been viewed in American culture. Most of the works focus on the “otherness” of LBTQI people within the Jewish community, in Jewish texts and traditions, and in the overall culture. 

The show includes work by prominent artists Mark Podwal, Archie Rand and Joan Snyder, and by Judy Chicago, whose “Pansy Crucifixion” shows three men, in agony, trapped inside a pink triangle. “Pansy Crucifixion” has been borrowed from Chicago’s “The Holocaust Project.” Most of the artists included, however, are not as well known. With this exhibit, “we wanted to address exclusion, isolation, rejection, marginalization, parents who rejected their children who had AIDS and sat shiva when they came out,” said Laura Kruger, curator of the HUC-JIR museum in an interview with the Forward.

YU-"A Letter To The Student Body From A Non-Anonymous Homosexual Student" by Arel Kirshstein

Dear everyone,
In my three years at Yeshiva University, I’ve heard much talk about the “anonymous gay article,” painfully honest and crucial for the student bodies of both campuses to understand the struggles of gay, closeted Orthodox Jews. 
Back when I was more closeted, I always fancied writing one myself, as homosexuality and coming out played a central role in my adult development. However, I didn’t really have much to add to the preceding articles; my experiences are pretty tame compared to some people I know. 

"Gay and Jewish in Brooklyn"- by Amanda Julius

Photo courtesy of the AP
3/31/10 The Brooklyn Ink. Benjy Unger remembers sitting cross-legged on his therapist’s floor, waiting to be tapped on the head. Dressed in traditional Orthodox Jewish regalia, “the whole garb,” the 25 year-old was playing duck, duck, goose.
The children’s game is one of several tactics used by Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality, or JONAH, to turn gay Jews straight. The idea is to return men to a childlike state, in order to rewire their sexuality. 
The organization, based in Jersey City, attracts men like Unger, who is from Borough Park, with the goal of treating homosexuality as a kind of disease, in order that they might have a heterosexual marriage.  In the Orthodox communities of Brooklyn, many gay Jews feel pressured to change, and they provide a substantial chunk of business for these types of programs. JONAH is one of many, though it claims to be the only organization specifically tailored to this gay Jewish audience.

A family that made Aliyah to Israel "My Open Letter to the President" by Ross Singer

My Open Letter to the President:
Dear Mr. President

You may have recently “received” an open letter from a Jewish supporter of yours who lost her brother. Like her, I am Jewish, supported your candidacy, and happen to have just lost my brother. While she and I have all that in common, the message of my open letter will be quite different than hers.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

*My 9-point Response to the Anti-Israel Lobby with Videos* by Rich Dweck

Please make a prayer for a lasting peace! 
  1. Video- U.S. Secretary Hillary Clinton meets with PM Netanyahu- Support for Israel
  2. Video- "Canadian PM: I Will Defend Israel 'whatever the cost' "
  3. My 9-point response to and the Anti-Israel Lobby 
  4. Video: "OPERATION PILLAR OF DEFENSE: US backs Israel and condemns Hamas rocket fire" 
  5. Video: NBC News Coverage of the Rally at the White House
  6. Video and Article: Arutz Sheva 7- Pro-Israel vs. Anti-Israel Protest Near White House
  7. Article: Washington Jewish Week "Latest News in Israel: Pro-Israel students rally in DC"
  8. Article: IDF Should Learn From Syrians How To "Slaughter And Crush" Enemies, Rabbi Yosef Says ** I denounce his extremely irresponsible words of violence*
  9. Article- "Music and Tears as the Rockets Fall"
  10. Video: Two videos taken at the rally

1) 11/20/12- U.S Sec. Hillary Clinton meets with PM Netanyahu

2)"Canadian PM: I Will Defend Israel 'whatever the cost' "

3) My 9-point Response to the article below and the Anti-Israel lobby:

Friday, November 16, 2012

"Building True Acceptance By helping gay kids, synagogues and Jewish schools can make the community better for all of us" by Marjorie Ingall

11/14/12 Tablet Magazine- Jeanne Schwartz called her husband John at work one afternoon in June 2009. “Joe has taken a lot of pills,” she said. Their 13-year-old son Joe, who’d just come out as gay at his middle school, had tried to commit suicide.
In Oddly Normal: One Family’s Struggle To Help Their Teenage Son Come to Terms With His Sexuality, John Schwartz tells Joe’s story, as well as his own and his wife’s. This is a family memoir, not a self-help book. But like Schwartz’s earlier book Short (which I raved about in Tablet a couple of years ago), Oddly Normal mixes personal anecdotes and science reporting in a way that adds resonance to both. A national correspondent for theNew York Times, Schwartz tells us about his son’s difficulties as a gay teenager while also examining research into gayness, homophobia, and teen suicide.
Jeanne and John had suspected Joe was gay since he was 3. He’d loved pink and rhinestones and Barbies and fabulousness; for Halloween he asked to be “a disco yady.” Joe later said that he’d known he was gay since he was 8. But knowing who you are isn’t the same as being comfortable with who you are. He called the burden he struggled with “the secret,” and for a long time he refused to name it, even to his parents.

Video: "Queer Scholarship and Queer Activism" by Jay Michaelson at Vanderbilt University

Jay Michaelson teaches a class on Queer Scholarship and Queer Activism at Vanderbilt University

The religious argument in support of LGBT people: God Vs Gay by Jay Michaelson

Jay explains why religious people should support LGBT people.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Orthodox Rabbi Avi Weiss speaks out against Homophobia, in support of gay victims!

Rabbi Avi Weiss speaks out against Homophobia!

"Letter from the Editor: The insensitivity shown by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship hurts" Daniel S. Weintraub (Gay Orthodox Jew)

Having grown up as a gay orthodox Jew, this weekend’s incident involving the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and SHADES really hit home. I feel that as an active member of the campus community and as the editor of Binghamton University’s largest student publication, I can no longer keep quiet.

Let me get this out there first: The InterVarsity Christian Fellowship — as with every other student organization on campus — is entitled to its own opinions and should be allowed to bring whomever it wants to speak on campus. But they crossed the line when they billed the event as an open forum to discuss homosexuality and religion when it was anything but. 

Plain and simple, the speaker was offensive and put people who may not be fully comfortable with who they are in a position that they shouldn’t have been put in.

Until I got to BU, I had only attended private, religious Jewish schools. In my all-boys Modern Orthodox high school, I attended classes where I learned about the ‘Gay Agenda’ that blocked discourse about homosexuality in America. 

I was taught how wrong and unnatural homosexuality is and was told that if scientists were allowed to work unencumbered, change would be possible. In my four years there, a single person came out of the closet and he was publicly ridiculed by my peers — in front of teachers — even after he graduated.

Ha'aretz: "Jewish organizations more LGBT-friendly than Fortune 1,000 companies"

Keshet executive director Idit Klein.

Ha'aretz Newspaper of Israel: 11/13/12- by Rutie Zuta                         
The Jewish community scores high for inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people but there is still significant room for improvement, according to a survey released on Monday by the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT civil rights organization in the United States. This was HRC’s first-ever index of LGBT inclusion within a faith-based community and the nonprofit sector.
The Jewish Organization Equality Index provides information on LGBT diversity and inclusion policies and practices of North American Jewish communal organizations, from national umbrella and advocacy groups to local nonprofits and synagogues.
The report, which was initiated by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, aims to push the Jewish community to prioritize inclusion of LGBT employees, members and volunteers into communal organizations. The survey’s supporters have joined with Keshet, the U.S. national organization advocating for full inclusion and equality of LGBT Jews in Jewish life.

Monday, November 12, 2012

"I’m a gay Muslim and I want to die" by Cary Tennis

 Dear Cary,
I have wanted to end my life for some time. I even tried once. I took well over 100 pills of Tylenol. Yeah, I was afraid.
I was horribly stupid and downed the pills before driving off with my car to some deserted parking lot where the pills could finish me off. Something didn’t strike my mother right about how I was leaving the house. She stopped me and I was interrogated. I continued denying that I did anything. 

Well, they had reason to suspect. I had been quite depressed and sad for a long time. But that really wasn’t a cry for help. I had made my decision and it was reversed. I felt violated. I was kept in the psych ward for a few weeks before they would let me go. It might help to add that I am a gay. And my family is Muslim. 

50% of Jewish Groups Have Gay-Friendly Policy by JTA

11/12/12 A new survey of Jewish communal organizations found that 50 percent of them have taken significant steps to welcome gays and lesbians and their families.

The Jewish Organization Equality Index provides benchmarks for gauging and improving policies regarding gay, lesbian bisexual and transgendered persons at North American Jewish communal organizations. The index was released Sunday by the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT civil rights organization.
  • Some 204 Jewish communal organizations, or about 10 percent of the organizations invited to take part, participated in the survey.
  • The index found that 98 percent of participating membership-based organizations offer same-sex couples family memberships; 90 percent use inclusive terms in their publicity materials; and 73 percent have a written non-discrimination policy.
  • The index also found that 75 percent of participating organizations have not specifically recruited LGBT individuals to their lay leadership board in the past three years, and that 79 percent have not targeted the LGBT community in workplace recruitment efforts.
“We applaud the organizations that participated and are taking important steps to foster LGBT inclusion, but we still have a long way to go until LGBT Jews – indeed, all Jews – are embraced as full and vital members of the Jewish family in every aspect of communal life,” said Lynn Schusterman, a major Jewish philanthropist and one of the index’s funders. “We have an opportunity to use these findings to truly commit ourselves to the vital but challenging work of forging a culture in which inclusivity, diversity and equality are paramount. The question is: will we?”

"Shades of Gay in Israel" by Adam Rosner (Gay Modern Orthodox Jew)

The Invisible Men.(Shahar Reznik)
For one Jewish filmmaker, making a documentary about gay Palestinians helped him accept his own identity 
11/12/12 Tonight, a documentary I wrote and produced in Israel, The Invisible Men, will screen at the Other Israel Film Festival in New York City. The film tells the untold stories of gay Palestinians hiding in Tel Aviv, seeking refuge from the families and Palestinian security forces that want them dead and the Israeli authorities that want them out of the Jewish state.

Five years after I moved to Israel and three after embarking on this project, these screenings present me with less a homecoming than a privilege: I return to my hometown more proud than ever to be Jewish, American, Israeli, and gay.

I grew up on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and I was, to put it simply, your all-American Jewish kid with all of the attendant neuroses and privileges. I was educated at the Ramaz School and Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, two flagship institutions of Modern Orthodox Judaism and American religious Zionism. I excelled in school. Socially, I was in the middle of the pack—somewhat awkward, always chubby, but who cared. I was accepted to Princeton University and graduated with a degree in Russian Literature with high honors.

"An Open Letter to My Republican-Voting Family" by Antony Merkel

Antony Merkel
NY-based Talent Manager

11/10/12  First, a little bit of background. My parents and brother vote Republican. Like so many, it's for economic reasons, and they would tell you that they're actually libertarians who believe the government should stay out of our social and personal lives, but because it can only ever be Republican or Democrat, they'll vote Republican. 
We're not a particularly political family, it's rarely discussed, and they've always been nothing but loving and supporting of me as a gay man, my mother especially, in the stereotypical Jewish-mother/gay-son fashion. It was for that reason that I made my peace with them voting Republican, or thought I had, until a recent conversation with my mother turned very heated very quickly, prompting me to write the following letter to her, my father and my brother.  
To my Republican family:
The more I think about it, the more I realize that I'm equally, if not mostly, to blame for where we find ourselves right now. In the five or so years that I've officially been "out," the conversation we had yesterday was probably the first full, open conversation we've had where we put everything on the table. And in those five years, never have I truly embraced my gay identity around you. 
Sure, we've talked about it -- I've never felt uncomfortable or scared and always knew you'd love and support me unconditionally -- but I'm learning that as a gay person, especially in these times, the burden is on me to elicit real support and understanding.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

"Gays support rabbi after controversial statement" by Tzvika Brot

Rabbi Shay Piron receives unexpected support from organizations within LGBT community after previously claiming that 'homosexuality can be fixed' 
Tzvika Brot Published 11/8/12
Rabbi Shay Piron
Rabbi Shay Piron, second on Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid list, recently suffered harsh criticism over his past statement that "homosexuality can be fixed." But on Wednesday, he received unexpected support from representatives of the LGBT community.Piron and Lapid both clarified on numerous occasions that Piron's view of the subject has changed over the years. The rabbi had also paid a visit to the Bar-Noar gay youth center following the shooting that took place there three years ago.
Hevruta, Bat Kol and Shabal, three organizations aiding religious gays and lesbians, issued a statement which they hope will set the record straight about Piron.
"We are witnessing major changes over the last decade in the way society treats homosexuals and lesbians… Rabbi Piron has become one of the greatest leaders of this change," the statement said.                                                                                                                 It was further noted that "not only has Rabbi Piron apologized for his previous statement, he has also been extremely helpful with various issues concerning the religious lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual community." Daniel Yunes, head of the Hevruta organization said: "This isn't about making a political statement, but about stating the truth and acknowledging the rabbi's efforts for our community… we wish more religious leaders would be willing to openly support Rabbi Piron's actions and promote equality in Israel."

"Marriage Is Who You Marry" By Simi Lampert

The Jewish Daily Forward- 11/11/12  This is the tenth and final post in “Feminist, Orthodox and Engaged,” a series by Simi Lampert on love, sex and betrothal in the life of a Modern Orthodox woman.
The other day my fiancé said to me, likely in response to something ridiculous that I’d just blurted out, “Marriage is whoever you marry.” I was silent for a moment — a rare moment that I hope he appreciated to its max — and then breathed out, “That was really deep.” For once, I wasn’t saying it sarcastically.
My fiancé didn’t quite understand why I found what he’d said to be so profound, but that short sentence really summed up something that I’d been trying to understand.
We’ve all heard the phrase “marriage is an institution.” And while it’s usually applied by a right-wing homophobe to an anti-gay marriage argument, the expression has meaning beyond that. What they’re saying, essentially, is that marriage is something that has set rules and boundaries defined by centuries of tradition and expectations of how marriage should go. That idea certainly rang true with me, as someone who grew up thinking of marriage as an “of course.” Of course I’ll get married. Of course I’ll have kids. The only variable was when I’d arrive at both of those life stages. 

What If There Were No Jewish Newspapers? Media unites the community across religious and political lines

Gary Rosenblatt
Gary Rosenblatt of the NY Jewish Week received a call several weeks ago from the exec of a mid-sized Jewish federation asking for my thoughts on a growing problem in his community: the local, independent Jewish newspaper is in financial meltdown and cannot go on as is.

“How can we help?” he wanted to know, recognizing the key role the paper has played in the community for decades.

I was saddened but not surprised by the call. Jewish media groups around the country — including this one — are facing the triple whammy of a weak economy, an aging audience and a next generation that is less interested in Jewish organizational life and used to getting news for free online.

Negative Nellies Need Not Apply – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 53)  By Erika Ettin – November 7, 2012
Have you ever read those profiles where the person sounds intelligent and generally interestinguntil that fateful last line?  I’ve seen them all:

    Cowboys fans need not apply.

    If you’re looking for a fling, look the other way.
    No drama, please!
    If you’re into country music, forget about it.
    If you’re a cat-lover, move right along.
    Don’t write to me if you’re not looking for a serious relationship.
    Douche bags need not apply!  (Taken from someone’s actual profile… I can’t make this stuff up.)

In doing a quick search of for men ages 25-40 within 20 miles of 20001 (my zip code), I found that 36 men used the expression “need not apply” somewhere in their profiles. And women?  Over 100!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Author Warren Hoffman: "The Passing Game: Queering Jewish American Culture"

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The Passing Game by Warren Hoffman                             
Tony Kushner’s award-winning epic play Angels in America was remarkable not only for its sensitive engagement of Jewish- American and gay culture but also for bringing these themes to a mainstream audience. While the play represented a watershed in American theater and culture, it belies a hundred years of previous attention to queer Jewish identity in twentieth-century American literature, drama, and film.

In The Passing Game, Warren Hoffman sheds light on this long history, taking up both Yiddish and English narratives that explore the tensions among Jewish identity, queer sexuality, performance, and American citizenship. With fresh insight Hoffman examines the 1907 Yiddish play God of Vengeance by Sholem Asch, the cross-dressing films of Yiddish actress Molly Picon, and several short stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer. 
He also analyzes the English-language novels The Rise of David Levinsky (Abraham Cahan), Wasteland (Jo Sinclair), and Portnoy’s Complaint (Phillip Roth). Hoffman highlights the ways in which the characters in these canonical texts attempt to "pass" as white, straight, and American in the early and mid–twentieth century. This pioneering work is a welcome contribution to the study of Jewish American literature and culture.
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